Intervention Visits, Practical Strategies, What Would You Do?

Your Instincts Tell You to Get Out of the Home…What Do You Do?


The quick answer to this questions is – LEAVE. That should be easy but often it is not. Think about this situation:shutterstock_49753867

When you arrived at the family’s apartment, there were a lot of people milling around on the front steps. You weave your way through them and knock on the family’s door. A man who you have never met answers the door and tells you that the mother, who you usually see, is still asleep but that he will go wake her so you can come on in. You go inside and find the child is walking around in the living room, wearing a heavy diaper and eating a pizza crust. You wait inside the dark apartment and notice a strange smell. You can hear the adults talking in the back bedroom but 10 minutes pass and no one comes out. You don’t want to leave the toddler unsupervised but your gut feeling says that something is not right. You ask yourself…what do I do?

Do I wait a little while longer?

Do I knock on the bedroom door and ask them if I should reschedule the visit?

Do I leave if I can’t get anyone to answer?

This is an unsettling situation that an early interventionist can easily find him/herself in. What you do may depend on how well you know the family, on your own temperament, and whether you feel that the child is in immediate danger.

Here are a few tips for this situation:

If your instincts say get out, then GET OUT – Listen to your instincts. Leave immediately if you sense danger. If there is no immediate threat but you still need to leave, let the family know and call them later to reschedule.

Let someone know what’s happening – If you had to leave even though the child would be unsupervised, let someone know. Is there a next-door neighbor or nearby relative who you can notify to take care of the child right now? Call the police or CPS if there is no one to take care of the child and/or if you suspect that the child is in immediate danger. Call your supervisor for guidance and support and call the child’s service coordinator in case he/she has noticed other concerning patterns of behavior.

Document what happened – Record your objective observations in the child’s record. This is very important, especially if the record is called to court at a later time.

Share your concern with the parent – Call the parent later and ask what happened. Let her know that you were concerned and why. Ask if there is a better day or time to visit. If you are uncomfortable with this conversation, ask for the service coordinator’s assistance.

Maybe you have been in a similar situation. What ideas can you share about how to handle a situation like this? Would you make a CPS referral? What would you say to the parent or the friend if you knock on the bedroom door?


For more safety tips, see this post: Safety Tips for Intervention Visits


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8 Comments to “Your Instincts Tell You to Get Out of the Home…What Do You Do?”

  1. You know, I think one of the hardest thing is that so many of us choose the field of EI because we are really “good helpers.” It sometimes “goes against our grain” to think about the danger to ourselves because we are first thinking about the child or the family.

    I think the idea that “if it doesn’t ‘feel right’, it probably isn’t” is a great mantra to abide. I’d leave, talk to my supervisor and discuss whether a CPS referral is warranted.

    • That’s exactly it, Cori – we do tend to think of the child and family first. That’s not a bad thing but our safety is so important too. There are polite ways to excuse yourself from a visit when your red flags to up. What would you say to the mother or friend to excuse yourself?

  2. Timely topic……it is so very important to always consider safety at every visit, for every child. Certainly, when something tells you – it’s doesn’t feel right, it is important to act upon that feeling. And remember, you can’t help the child & family if you are in an unsafe place or situation.

    • Such a good point, Lynne! Not always an easy call to make but yours is great perspective to keep in mind. It’s like how they say that, in an emergency, the most important things you can do are make sure you are safe and call 911. Even if 911 isn’t needed here, getting to a safe place will certainly make it easier for you determine what you need to do next.

  3. So how would I excuse myself…? I would say I have an urgent need to return to my office (which is true), and then I would exit the premises. Depending upon the particulars, I might call CPS right away (if I had to leave the child unsupervised in the home). If asked for particulars, would state can’t reveal details due to confidentiality requirements. Immediate call to SC & supervisor & documentation of events.

    • Excellent strategies, Lynne. Thanks so much for sharing them. I especially like how you would say you have an urgent matter to attend to because this is very true and would give you a polite “out.” Great advice!

  4. I have arrived at a home at the expected time and found everyone asleep – except for a young sibling who opened the door because I was a familiar person. It was a very uncomfortble situation. I did not want to leave the house with the young child “in charge” and everyone asleep so I stayed until the little one finally got Daddy up. I then left. In the car, I called my supervisor and the family’s DSS caseworker. Cori is right – we are nurturers by nature and we want to leave children in safe surroundings. The whole situation turned nasty later but because I had called it in immediately and had documented it all in the file, DSS backed me up completely. So – trust your gut instinct, make calls immediately, and document!

    • Oh, that IS an uncomfortable situation, Barbara. It sounds like you did the right thing. When you documented the situation, did you find it hard to figure out what to record? I remember recording events like this and having to step back and just get the facts and my observations down on paper – without my feelings or judgments about it all, which were usually pretty strong because I was shaken up. I think our strong feelings about these situations are normal because we do care, but our feelings don’t necessarily need to go in the record. What do you think?

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